How was/is Kaiser Wilhelm II regarded by Germans after WW I?

Did/do post-WW I & II Germans, and present day Germans, regard him as a sort of proto-Hitler, or a once-hero, or were/are they more or less indifferent to him and his legacy?


Certainly not Hitler- Wilhelm was no different from any other monarch. Militaristic, yes, but genocide was not a part of Germany before Adolph (anti-Semitism was, but that’s a different issue).

Interesting that this Kaiser lived on in exile in The Netherlands long enough to experience the German invasion of that country in 1940; he died in 1941. Apparently there was no love lost between Wilhelm and Hitler, so nothing in particular came of it.

From what I can read, current perceptions of Wilhelm by historians is of a rather ineffective leader who was somewhat of a strutting puppet of the higher members of his government, including the generals. Although he seemed to not want the war, his ego and his willingness to speak out in ill-advised ways in public worked against that point of view. (Note: this is sounding oddly and ominously familiar.)

I can’t answer directly your question about how today’s Germans view the Kaiser, not being one nor knowing any, but again from what I have read (blog posts and the like) there is little interest and less regard for his memory. Perhaps it is just too long ago, and WWI atrocities (if any, such as they were) have been pretty completely overshadowed by those of WWII.

I’m aware of the whole holocaust thing obviously. But notwithstanding the scale of atrocity the Germans did have the rape of Belgium on their hands, as well as a significant culpability for that war itself, as well as the spin-off of WW II.

In a number of works, including Dreadnought: Britain, Germany and the Coming of the Great War by Robert Massie, it isn’t difficult to for a reader to conclude that the Kaiser himself holds a significant amount of responsibility for that conflict. I suspect that Germans don’t hold him in quite the same regard with which the British hold Queen Victoria, though she was obviously a player at that time, albeit with a different relationship to her national government.

So I don’t think that the Kaiser either was, or was regarded as “…no different from any other monarch.”

A more relevant comparison would be with King George V, since he was the monarch when Britain entered WW1. However, George had less influence on national policy than Wilhelm, and he’s regarded as a competent, if rather old-fashioned, constitutional monarch.

There’s the whole “stab in the back” point of view; a lot of the bitter losers in Germany attributed their loss to a political and economic elite (and for good measure, they tossed in Jewish conspiracy) who let “honest working germans” do the dirty work and get killed, and then sold them out with an (in their minds) unnecessary surrender in 1918.

As I understood it, there was military mutinies and civil unrest in the months leading up to the Armistice, major dissention and “Workers’ Parties” overthrew many of the governments and tried to set up socialist states. the Kaiser, the King of Bavaria, and an number of other nobility were given the heave-ho in the political turmoil. There was serious fear Germany would follow Russia down the rabbit hole of communism - hence the rise of right-wing parties like the Nazis, who as one of their tenets were adamant about stopping communist progress by whatever means necessary. The Versailles treaty really stuck it to Germany; they were left having to pay reparations with a destroyed economy - this led to a generation of encomonic problems, and since the Kaiser’s government agreed to the Armistice, he was to some extent blamed.

My impression is that WWII almost totally overshadows WWI in the German popular imagination, both because of the passage of time and the unparalleled catastrophe the latter war was for the country. I doubt hardly any German thinks much about the Kaiser anymore, one way or the other.

The dimestore-psychoanalysis take on him is that he overcompensated for his withered arm by becoming an arch-militarist. Like Hitler, he thought he knew more about grand strategy than he really did, and had only himself to blame for his eventual fate. Here’s probably more than you ever wanted to know:,_German_Emperor

In his masterful Colonel Roosevelt, about Theodore Roosevelt’s post-White House years, Edmund Morris discusses how assiduously the Kaiser tried to woo T.R. in the 1910s, seeing him as an imperialist of Northern European descent who might be sympathetic to German ambitions. T.R. visited him several times, including at German military maneuvers. Once WWI broke out, though, T.R. condemned German aggression and pushed hard for the U.S. to enter the war on the side of the Allies.